A divide?

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A divide?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:10 pm

Interesting paper here (will open .pdf document).

Dr. Thynn Thynn wrote:In the West we seem to have two ends of the spectrum in the Theravada tradition: the strict monastic tradition on the one end, and at the other end of the spectrum the loose and eclectic mindfulness movement which has more or less left traditional Theravada identify behind.

My personal experience is that I started with the "loose and eclectic" end of the spectrum but increasingly find resonance in the "traditional" end. I see the potential for challenges to arise when the two ends meet. How about y'all?
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Re: A divide?

Postby Ben » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:38 pm

Hi Jechbi

I can't download the article from my work computer. Its not letting me for some reason.
But based on the short paragraph that you've provided, my initial reaction is that Dr Thynn's statement is an ill-fitting generalisation.
I am keen to read Zavk's thesis - when its published - or hear his thoughts on the subject.
metta

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Re: A divide?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:47 pm

I personally would like to see some sort of blending of the two. Not only in the "West" but also in Asian nations too. For example, in Japan, young people are leaving Buddhism, seeing it as too traditional and not modern. Yet in other developed nations in the West, we see increased interest.

Relying on lay teachers only has the danger of becoming a yoga-like fad just for stress-reduction as she mentions, but the other extreme turns some away, so I would prefer a blend of the two. IMS and Spirit Rock started out as lay led groups, but in recent years have utilized ordained teachers more for leading retreats and giving talks. I see this as the start of some sort of blending of the two.

One thing still lacking at many centers in the West that are run by non-Asians, is the lack of family programs. Ven. Dhammika and others have stated that a real community cannot exist or will not take hold until families are involved and so far this has been lacking in many Western nations.

Some Vajrayana groups, such as Shambhala Mountain have made some progress. They have family programs, even retreats for the whole family. Some Theravada / Vipassana centers have also made progress, including the S. N. Goenka groups which have retreats for children and teenagers and Spirit Rock, which also has family programs.
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Re: A divide?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Oct 26, 2009 10:49 pm

Hi Ben,

You're probably right. Many generalizations are ill-fitting. It is an interesting little article, though, if you get to a computer that allows you to download it.

Metta
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But never soddens what is open;
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Re: A divide?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:06 pm

Greetings,

If you grow up in a traditional Buddhist community, there's more of a clearly defined set method for being Buddhist, and how to integrate Buddhism into one's life.

If you grow up in a non-Buddhist community, you have to find your own way to a greater degree and its unsurprising that people who have no standardised roadmap within their local community, will come up with diverse ways of applying Buddhism in their own lives. That's neither inherently good nor bad... it simply means there's not much in the way of convention to defer to.

We see these differences even in our interactions on Buddhist forums.

Western Theravada is certainly not homogenous, but neither should it be portrayed as two diametrically opposed approaches.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: A divide?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:24 pm

Hi Jechbi,

Interesting subject. As others have said on this and other threads there is undoubtedly some value in having a variety of forms, some easier for the average Westerner to enter into than others. When I first went to my local "Insight" group I had to adjust to these differences, but I've got some useful support from some experienced people there.

The major concept I still have a stumbling block with is not so much to do with organisation and so on, but as to what the actual goal of the practise is. Many lay teachers seem to present the goal as "living the best possible life", rather than the goal of "ending all suffering" or "escape from samsara". Actually, I've found thinking about the differences in description a useful challenge as to what concepts I'm clinging on to, since "living the best possible life" is not necessarily opposed to the more traditional expressions...

Metta
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Re: A divide?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:38 pm

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Actually, I've found thinking about the differences in description a useful challenge as to what concepts I'm clinging on to, since "living the best possible life" is not necessarily opposed to the more traditional expressions...


I don't think it is opposed... it's just that one might need to have a definition of "living the best possible life" which differs from that which is endorsed by our commercialised society (i.e. the 'high life').

"Living the best possible life" also de-emphasises rebirth, which is an aspect of the teachings that some people will actively resist.... therefore, it reduces one possible 'barrier to entry'.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: A divide?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:23 am

Hi Retro,

Of course I mean "best possible life" in Buddhist, not material terms...
retrofuturist wrote:"Living the best possible life" also de-emphasises rebirth, which is an aspect of the teachings that some people will actively resist.... therefore, it reduces one possible 'barrier to entry'.

Yes, that's what I meant, no mention of anything beyond this life...

Mike
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Re: A divide?

Postby Individual » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:00 am

Jechbi wrote:Interesting paper here (will open .pdf document).

Dr. Thynn Thynn wrote:In the West we seem to have two ends of the spectrum in the Theravada tradition: the strict monastic tradition on the one end, and at the other end of the spectrum the loose and eclectic mindfulness movement which has more or less left traditional Theravada identify behind.

My personal experience is that I started with the "loose and eclectic" end of the spectrum but increasingly find resonance in the "traditional" end. I see the potential for challenges to arise when the two ends meet. How about y'all?

I think that traditional Theravada has been a noble protector of the Tipitaka for several centuries, but their interpretations can be convoluted and they can be intolerant. And Abhidhamma, something only traditional Theravadins seem to care about, is apparently useless.

In any setting, though, I think it is good for there to be the right balance of conservative ("traditional") and reformist ("modern", "progressive", "liberal") elements. Any extreme either in favor of or against tradition isn't good. Diversity of opinion, especially of religion, is a valuable thing.
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Re: A divide?

Postby pink_trike » Tue Oct 27, 2009 7:17 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

If you grow up in a traditional Buddhist community, there's more of a clearly defined set method for being Buddhist, and how to integrate Buddhism into one's life.


In my experience, the 20-30s urban generation in Thailand has nearly no interest in Buddhism and even lots of disdain for it, and not the slightest idea of how to integrate it into their lives even though most of them grew up in traditional Buddhist families and communities. My thai friends in this demographic that are interested in Buddhism are finding a toe-hold in Western Insight Meditation, and they are hungry for it. As one friend said..."because it explains".
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: A divide?

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:24 pm

Jechbi wrote:Interesting paper here (will open .pdf document).

Dr. Thynn Thynn wrote:In the West we seem to have two ends of the spectrum in the Theravada tradition: the strict monastic tradition on the one end, and at the other end of the spectrum the loose and eclectic mindfulness movement which has more or less left traditional Theravada identify behind.

My personal experience is that I started with the "loose and eclectic" end of the spectrum but increasingly find resonance in the "traditional" end. I see the potential for challenges to arise when the two ends meet. How about y'all?


Although I'm probably more at home on the "eclectic" side of the field, I'm also more likely to place trust in a teacher who shows respect for -- and deep knowledge of -- the tradition. And I'm less likely to trust a teacher who dismisses or distorts the tradition. Because in that case, I'm being asked to take refuge in an individual personality, and that's a recipe for trouble.

Buddhist teachings are not only powerful but, if misapplied, potentially dangerous. I'm sure most cult leaders would love for their followers to drop their ideas of "self" and embrace virtues such as renunciation and equanimity. Mahayana "emptiness" can and has been used to excuse unethical action. Contemplating impermanence and suffering could lead to despair and suicide.

The tradition has built-in checks and balances to guard against these perils.
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Re: A divide?

Postby PeterB » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:39 pm

-What we are describing is a series of snapshots isnt it ?
The current situation in the west, As well as the situation among the young in Thailand are all aspects of a particular dynamic, and its unclear when a more settled picture will emerge. Buddhadhamma is still a small green shoot in the west, it will develop in particular ways. What we have seen with other cultures that encountered Theravadin Buddhadhamma is that the Dhamma has an almost organic way of adapting while remaining true to its roots. I see no reason why this should not happen in the west. Along the way it will become a vehicle for Rites Du Passage, and thats ok too.
I see no reason to suppose that by encouraging a Dhamma- Lite free from Buddhism among young Thais that this would aid anyone . What will spark a real turning to the Dhamma among the young Thais given another generation, is disillusionment with the empty nature of much of western culture, and a clear seeing that its apparant freedoms are in fact merely breeding new forms of slavery.
In short I dont think that we should see snapshots of any current situation as indicators of substantial or long term trends. In particular I think we should be aware of the tendency to see our own projections as confirmation of an objective reality.
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Re: A divide?

Postby Guy » Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:15 am

PeterB wrote:In particular I think we should be aware of the tendency to see our own projections as confirmation of an objective reality.


Well said.
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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